When you manage or own a warehouse or distribution center, among the most important considerations is how you can take steps to improve storage and warehouse efficiency. While there are numerous techniques that can help you make your storage more efficient, one option that you should look into is a racking system.
Once installed, a racking system will allow you to maximize your space for high-density storage. You’ll also benefit from lower costs and enhanced safety for your personnel. The following guide offers an in-depth look at the advantages of using drive-in racking systems throughout your warehouse.
What are Drive-in Racking and Drive-in Systems?
A drive-in racking system is a cost-effective solution that can help you with any high-density storage issues that you’re experiencing in your warehouse. When using a static system, rails will run along the depth of the rack to assist with pallet placement. The main issue with this solution is that it can be difficult to drive deep into the system to recover or place pallets. Drive-in racking reduces the need for aisles while substantially increasing the use of cubed space.
Drive-in rack loads and retrieves occur on the same side of the system. These racking units can consist of a two-post or four-post structure that allows a front-end loader to drive in with ease.
All drive-in racks come with drive lanes that ensure pallets can be retrieved from any level without needing to climb stairs, move pans, swing load beams, drive up ramps, or press buttons to trigger drive belts. This configuration improves storage efficiency and reduces the amount of time that your personnel will spend moving pallets.
The Benefits of Drive-in Racking and Drive-in Systems
There are many benefits associated with drive-in racking systems, which include everything from better storage capacity to improved safety and security. Drive-in systems make it easier to retrieve pallets from any level. The drive lanes also allow forklift drivers to quickly drive into the system, obtain the necessary pallet, and drive out, which saves time.
These drive-in lanes can also be used as aisles and accommodate the use of a reach truck for better storage density. Once this system has been installed, you can store goods that would be seriously damaged because of forklift traffic. By positioning these goods on a higher level, they won’t obtain the same level of exposure.
The loading and unloading processes are more effective because all rows of pallets are able to be driven up at the same time without needing to move in and out of different lanes to do so. If you implement this system into your warehouse, you’ll be able to reconfigure the space by making the layout leaner. Depending on your existing layout, you may be able to grow storage space by as much as 80%.
Likely the main benefit of this type of racking system is that you should be able to have higher storage density, which adds value to your warehouse. This system can effectively multiply your usable square footage. If your system is well-optimized, it can be used with up to six to eight pallets deep. The structure can also be changed and moved as needed.
After several training sessions, your warehouse personnel should be accustomed to using a drive-in racking system. The cross-beam patterns are simple to navigate. However, every employee should receive training on the loading techniques and procedures that need to be used with these racking systems.
Because your warehouse space is more easier to navigate, worker safety should be substantially improved. There’s less risk that an employee will become injured because of difficulties with loading and unloading items. As for the cost savings, drive-in racking systems are highly affordable and can be assembled without incurring too many expenses.
Why are Drive-in Racking and Drive-in Systems More Efficient?
Along with all of the benefits mentioned previously, drive-in racking systems also make a warehouse considerably more efficient when compared to more traditional storage methods. Since forklifts are able to drive up and down lanes, these lanes can be used as chute entrances or drive aisles to enhance material flow and increase density even when a forklift truck isn’t present.
This racking system is accessible whether you use the last-in, first-out (LIFO) method or the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method. It also accommodates different pallet sizes and weights.
How to Use Drive-in Racking and Drive-in Systems
While drive-in racking systems offer many benefits, there are some specific procedures and safety guidelines that you should adhere to if you want to get the most out of the system. As mentioned previously, drive-in racking supports the LIFO inventory management technique. Since this technique involves loading back to front, drive-in racks aren’t ideal for products that come with a high level of picking frequency or selectivity.
Drive-in racking systems are designed specifically to accommodate forklifts that have the right clearances under rails and between columns. If an employee uses a larger vehicle or a straddle truck that has fixed outriggers, the rack could be damaged.
Keep in mind that the rail width, pallet position heights, column placement, and rack openings for a drive-in system are made to match a certain pallet width. Make sure that the fork truck that’s being used during loading and unloading operations is able to fit between the rails.
Even though the ideal configuration for a drive-in racking system allows it to be used with only one size of pallet, it’s possible for a system to be designed in a manner that accommodates two separate widths. However, this layout can confuse operators, which is why you should consider using one of the pallet sizes with your drive-in racking system and another pallet size with a completely separate system.
Along with improving space utilization, this layout should also prevent pallets from falling between rails. Make sure that you never place pallets with cracked or damaged bottom boards on drive-in racking. If you do, there’s a higher risk that pallet failure will occur under heavier loads.
The forklift operators in your facility should be trained to adhere to the best practices for loading and unloading pallets in a drive-in rack. These structures will require loads to be lifted to an elevated position before the vehicle can get into the rack.
Drivers should also receive regular training on entering and backing out of the drive-in system at a consistent speed. When drivers are backing into aisles, there’s a higher potential for a traffic collision, which is why caution is essential. Aisles should be wide enough to allow a counterbalanced forklift to maneuver at 90 degrees perpendicular to your racking system before entering it.
Since drive-in racking systems are made with rails, ties, and upright frames, they are constructed with base plates and columns that provide more rigidity and stability. These systems are usually heavier and require more anchors to be connected directly to the floor.
You might want to use more protective measures with the front entrance columns as well as the arms of the system. These components can be damaged by forklift loads and traffic, which is why extra precautions are highly recommended. Pallet positioning can be made easier with the use of stronger columns, base plates, and flared width for the rail.
Even though the majority of drive-in racking systems can be made with three-inch columns to provide decent stability and rigidity, any system that’s higher than 21 feet tall should be made with four-inch columns for additional strength. Purchasing extra materials can increase the system’s cost. However, these expenses may be mitigated by the improvement in storage space.
If you want to use a deep drive-in racking system that accommodates at least 10 positions, consider selecting a dual-entry system that offers five positions that are placed back-to-back. By using this layout, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of distance that a forklift needs to travel to retrieve or place a load, which lessens the possibility of column impact.
To make sure that your drive-in system is properly installed, you should obtain a rack inspection on an annual basis. According to the Rack Manufacturers Institute, inspections need to be completed more often in the event of:
- Narrow aisles – If there isn’t enough width to move in the aisles, it’s more likely that material handling equipment will damage the rack.
- High traffic – When the racking system sees a large amount of traffic, the area could be damaged.
- Previous damage – In the event that a rack area has been damaged before, there’s a high likelihood that it will be damaged again.
- Cold environment – If you position racking in colder storage areas, material handling equipment could impact it because of storage density.
Why Choose QMH?
Drive-in racking systems provide a wide range of benefits that traditional storage solutions don’t offer. You’ll be able to take advantage of higher density, an improved use of warehouse space, cost savings, and an increase in personnel safety.
If you install one of these systems in your facility, make sure that you provide every employee with training on how to properly use the drive-in racking system. Doing so will reduce accidents and keep rack damage at bay. Call QMH today if you have any questions about these racking systems and how to use them in your warehouse.